Too Long; Didn't ReadAugustus Melmotte was becoming greater and greater in every direction,—mightier and mightier every day. He was learning to despise mere lords, and to feel that he might almost domineer over a duke. In truth he did recognise it as a fact that he must either domineer over dukes, or else go to the wall. It can hardly be said of him that he had intended to play so high a game, but the game that he had intended to play had become thus high of its own accord. A man cannot always restrain his own doings and keep them within the limits which he had himself planned for them. They will very often fall short of the magnitude to which his ambition has aspired. They will sometimes soar higher than his own imagination. So it had now been with Mr. Melmotte. He had contemplated great things; but the things which he was achieving were beyond his contemplation.
The reader will not have thought much of Fisker on his arrival in England. Fisker was, perhaps, not a man worthy of much thought. He had never read a book. He had never written a line worth reading. He had never said a prayer. He cared nothing for humanity. He had sprung out of some Californian gully, was perhaps ignorant of his own father and mother, and had tumbled up in the world on the strength of his own audacity. But, such as he was, he had sufficed to give the necessary impetus for rolling Augustus Melmotte onwards into almost unprecedented commercial greatness. When Mr. Melmotte took his offices in Abchurch Lane, he was undoubtedly a great man, but nothing so great as when the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway had become not only an established fact, but a fact established in Abchurch Lane. The great company indeed had an office of its own, where the Board was held; but everything was really managed in Mr. Melmotte's own commercial sanctum. Obeying, no doubt, some inscrutable law of commerce, the grand enterprise,—"perhaps the grandest when you consider the amount of territory manipulated, which has ever opened itself before the eyes of a great commercial people," as Mr. Fisker with his peculiar eloquence observed through his nose, about this time to a meeting of shareholders at San Francisco,—had swung itself across from California to London, turning itself to the centre of the commercial world as the needle turns to the pole, till Mr. Fisker almost regretted the deed which himself had done. And Melmotte was not only the head, but the body also, and the feet of it all. The shares seemed to be all in Melmotte's pocket, so that he could distribute them as he would; and it seemed also that when distributed and sold, and when bought again and sold again, they came back to Melmotte's pocket. Men were contented to buy their shares and to pay their money, simply on Melmotte's word. Sir Felix had realised a large portion of his winnings at cards,—with commendable prudence for one so young and extravagant,—and had brought his savings to the great man. The great man had swept the earnings of the Beargarden into his till, and had told Sir Felix that the shares were his. Sir Felix had been not only contented, but supremely happy. He could now do as Paul Montague was doing,—and Lord Alfred Grendall. He could realize a perennial income, buying and selling. It was only after the reflection of a day or two that he found that he had as yet got nothing to sell. It was not only Sir Felix that was admitted into these good things after this fashion. Sir Felix was but one among hundreds. In the meantime the bills in Grosvenor Square were no doubt paid with punctuality,—and these bills must have been stupendous. The very servants were as tall, as gorgeous, almost as numerous, as the servants of royalty,—and remunerated by much higher wages. There were four coachmen with egregious wigs, and eight footmen, not one with a circumference of calf less than eighteen inches.